Introduction

A brief introduction to the life and theories of Sigmund Freud, the controversial father of psychoanalysis.


"A man should not strive to eliminate his complexes but to get into accord with them: they are legitimately what directs his conduct in the world."
--- Sigmund Freud

Best Known For

Birth

Freud was born in Moravia (now Czech Republic) on May 6, 1856.
He died in London on September 23, 1939.

Childhood

Sigismund Schlomo Freud (later shortened to Sigmund Freud by himself) was born to middle-class Jewish parents. When Freud was four, his family moved to Vienna, Austria, where Freud spent most of his life until 1938, when he was forced to flee to England because of the Nazi invasion.

Freud's father, Jacob Freud, was a wool merchant. Freud's mother, Amalia, was Jacob's second wife and 20 years younger than her husband. Freud had two much older half-brothers from his father's first marriage and seven younger siblings. One of the older half-brothers had a son who was about Freud's age. And Freud had a nanny who was Catholic and thought of as Freud's second mother. The unusual family situation, especially the complex relationships Freud had with his father and his nanny, was believed to have helped shape some of Freud's psychoanalytic notions, such as the Oedipus Complex.

Career

At age 17 Freud entered the University of Vienna to study medicine. Freud was a diligent student and a believer of the theory of evolution and the methods of natural science. Later, Freud, as a neuropathologist, became a respected physician. He became interested in the treatment of an emotional disorder known as hysteria when he studied under the famous French neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot. Back in Vienna, Freud collaborated with Josef Breuer, another physician and physiologist. Breuer had a patient, known as Anna O, suffering from hysteria, which apparently paralyzed her. During her treatment, Freud and Breuer discovered that recalling traumatic experiences with the help of hypnosis would help relieving her symptoms. In 1895, Freud and Breuer published Studies in Hysteria, which documented "the cathartic method", also known as the "talking cure".

Freud continued to develop and publish his theories. The Interpretation of Dreams, published in 1900, and Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, published in 1905, made Freud famous. But his theories, especially the part about infantile sexuality, were severely criticized by the intellectuals in 20th century Vienna. Freud and his work, however, persevered and gradually gained a loyal following that included Alfred Adler and Carl Jung (who later parted their ways with Freud). The "International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA)" was founded in 1910. The psychoanalytical magazine "Imago" was founded in 1912. Eventually, the society at large began to recognize the extraordinary effort Freud had made in understanding the human mind. In 1935, just before his eightieth birthday, Freud was appointed Honorary Member of the prestigious British Royal Society of Medicine.

Today, the controversy over Freud's theories remains. Those theories, however, have forever changed the Western views of psychopathology, day-to-day life, and the world.

Publications by Freud

Biographies of Freud